Excerpt from Pancho Durango and the Zen of Fishing:
Wilson studied a couple of sea gulls fighting over a shred of dead shrimp on the surface of the bay. When the battle no longer held his interest, he turned and asked the old man, “Pancho, how old are you?”
“I am not sure.” Pancho continued to slowly reel and jerk his line, his attention thirty yards out and ten feet deep.
“How can that be?”
“I was born deep in the Copper Canyon. We did not keep records of anything, including birth.”
“Well, we know you are at least in your seventies and perhaps in your eighties.”
“Perhaps.” The conversation held less interest for Pancho than the three dimensional chess match he silently waged with fish that apparently only he could see.
“And you are strong of mind and body. “
“Some apparently believe so.”
“What is the key to longevity?”
Pancho said with no hesitation, and with as much emphasis as you’d expect from a request for another live shrimp to hook for bait, “You live as long as you have something worthwhile to give”.
“And who is the judge of that.”
“Only you of course.”
Wilson frowned as he squinted at the horizon. “So, goodness and righteousness have nothing to do with it?”
“It all depends on what you consider is good and right.”
Wilson sunk his head and smirked apathetically at the ripples beneath his feet. Once again Pancho had blithely turned a simple question into a deep philosophical riddle. Time to rebait the hook and make another cast. Always the right thing to do when you know your next question will be hit out of the park by the old man like a twenty year old on steroids.
Ta-sui was asked, “Buddha’s truth is everywhere; so where do you teach students to plant their feet?”
He replied, “The vast ocean lets fish leap freely; the endless sky lets birds fly freely.”
– translation by Thomas Cleary
Chih-men was asked, ‘What is my self?’
He replied, ‘Who is asking?’
The questioner said, ‘Please help me more.’
Chih-men said, ‘The robber is a coward at heart.’
– translated by Thomas Cleary
Reference: Pursuit of Understanding
2. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
This book is one of my favorite novels of all time; it is right up there with the likes of East of Eden and To Kill a Mockingbird. I first read Siddhartha when I was seventeen years old. It was an important part of my own spiritual journey then and has served the same purpose more recently.
Having read it again this year, I wondered how on earth I could have spent twenty-seven years effectively donning a yellow robe and devoting my life to a cult. Alas, perhaps that path served the same purpose as Siddhartha’s several decade journey.
During his early spiritual seeking years, Siddhartha comes into contact with the Buddha, referred to as the Glorious One. Siddhartha can find nothing wrong with the Glorious One or his fledgling philosophy and practice. But something holds Siddhartha back from donning the yellow robe of devotees even when the Glorious One pitches his way directly to Siddhartha. His fellow seeker and friend Govinda opts for the robes.
Hesse provides a concise, accurate summation of the Buddha’s teachings and the Vedic scripture that precedes and influences their origination. He has Siddhartha offer no criticism of them because he finds no fault with them. But as his own life plays out, in many ways paralleling the journey of the Buddha’s own life, he comes to his own realization of the goal of the Buddha’s path. Not through practice, but instead through living.
In a sublime, lyrical sort of manner Hesse demonstrates how Govinda, who chose to don the robes when Siddhartha declined, and who spent his life as a dedicated follower of the Glorious One, could never attain that realization. While Govinda attained a high level of awareness and exemplary conduct, it was precisely because Govinda chose to follow and devote himself to a teacher that made enlightenment unattainable.
One moral of the story is that one doesn’t attain to enlightenment by simply following an enlightened one’s path. Perhaps even, the very act of becoming a devoted follower ultimately bars the path.
At some point, if one wants to transcend, one is going to have to blaze some trail on his own.
Posted in Buddha, healing, independents, Integral Theory, philosophy, Scientology, Zen
Tagged "mark rathbun", Buddha, Buddhism, Hermann Hesse, marty rathbun, scientology, Siddhartha